The Vampires Next Door – “The Radleys” by Matt Haig
They’re a typical family living in a village in England – Mom (Helen) belongs to a book club, the teenagers (Clara and Rowan) are bullied at school, and Dad(Peter) is a doctor with a crush on the neighbor lady.
They also happen to be vampires.
Except that Helen and Peter have been abstaining from vampirism since the children were born, and the kids have no idea what they really are. Rowan just knows he’s a pale, skinny, outcast with a penchant for Lord Byron’s poetry. Clara has recently gone vegan, and is feeling weak all the time.
All these domestic troubles change one night when Clara is attacked by a rude teenage boy while attempting to leave a party. Overcome by her lust for blood, she kills him, and the action takes off from there. Desperate to cover Clara’s kill, Peter calls on his still-active vampire brother Will, who arrives in town bringing all kinds of trouble along with him. Clara, meanwhile, has tasted blood and has suddenly gone from pale wallflower to bold hottie. Seeing his sister’s transformation, Rowan delves into drinking blood and soon finds himself potentially getting the girl of his dreams. Enter a police force dedicated to handling vampires, a douchey kid with a crush on Rowan’s dream girl, and a whole whirlwind of connections and interactions, and it all ends in a thrilling showdown that proves blood is thicker than…well, blood.
“The Radleys” is more “American Beauty” than “Dracula,” and actually could probably be classified more with other novels about families with difficulties than gothic horror lore. In fact, I was reminded of a recent read – Johnathan Franzen’s “The Corrections” – while I was reading it. (Except that, unlike “The Corrections,” I enjoyed this book.) The Radleys are a troubled, likable, family, and you root for them.
Haig keeps the flow/chapters brief and cinematic. At times, it feels like reading scenes from a play. He also wisely sprinkles passages from the book Helen and Peter live by – “The Abstainer’s Handbook” – throughout the book for the reader’s education as to what a daily chore it is to be an abstaining vampire.
“The Radleys” hits stores in December, and I hope it’s a book people pick up and enjoy. I found it charming, exciting, and full of characters I cared about.
And I have to say, I like any book that accuses Lord Byron, Vivien Leigh, and Jimi Hendrix of being vampires.